Brew Biz: Werts and All

Written by Ken Carman

Big Bob’s Barleywine Bash Pensacola Beach, Florida

(Part of The Emerald Coast Beer Fest. Usually the second weekend in September, or the one after Labor Day. Expect a report and pictures.)

I really, really, really recommend, if you go to the Emerald Coast Beer Festival, that on Saturday you slip back to your room and doze off for a while. It’s up to you.

But after the night before and sampling so many brews by micros and brewpubs…

A Saturday drenched in corny kegs of beer from homebrewers all across the Southeast….

Participating in beach contests where bungee cords are tied to you as you try to rescue a beer, toss a keg… all over pristine white sand in the summer heat….

You’re going to miss it, you know you are…

You don’t want to miss Big Bob’s Barleywine Bash.

Somewhere, about 10 at night, the mischievous barleywine gremlins come out. Come on, you’ve seen the movie. “Don’t feed them…” Well, Big Bob feeds them anyway and I should know: I help him.

Every year at the end of one of the best parties on the planet we all bring big beers: defined as anything 10% or over. And every year the crowd has grown. The first year Millie and I attended we had perhaps ten hardy souls. Last year there must have been damn near forty or fifty.

Big Bob, the name applies quite well: though short still… um, BIG, and a Santa twinkle in his eye, if Santa delivered Bigfoot and Foghorn on his sleigh. None for the reindeer please! One year they had to clean up the elfin road kill.

This man is my hero. I’ve been a big beer fan since I first found out that I liked beer because it didn’t all look, and taste, like what comes out after drinking it, only with… fizz.

The affair starts with Big Bob shirts you either purchase, or bring an adequate amount of big beer to please my hero so he might, I repeat might, let you slide into one for free. Some people cross themselves during such holy events. I prefer Bob’s method: he just spills some beer on his shirt to honor the sacred ceremony.

I brought about 10. Don’t know how many others brought, but we must have had at least one 22 oz. per person, or more.

One year the hotel tried to kick us out after an hour. They would have had better luck trying to pet a rabid gremlin while feeding it rotted Brussels sprouts. They haven’t tried since. Of course our club: Escambia Bay Brewers; Millie and I are members there too, spend so much money there and brighten the place up… hopefully they haven’t missed the lampshades we both wore… I think they have decided, “Bravo!”

As the night continues into morning the crowd thins, in a somewhat staggering manner, but the most vicious gremlins are there to the last. Perhaps to honor Gremlins II we should dance to “NY, NY” next year?

Some of us are honored with the royal order of the Barleywine by the priest/minister/head Gizmo, Mr. Bob. I think next year may be my year.

I can’t wait.